Dessert Divine – the Chocolate Mousse

Sunday April 30, 2017

Chocolate mousse is a sophisticated pudding, once only a specialty of French restaurants. It is an integral part of French dessert making. Every home baker and restaurant pasty chef have their version for special occasions. “Mousse” is the French word for “foam”, while “Chocolat” is of course French for “chocolate”. Consequently, “Mousse au chocolat” translates as “foamy chocolate. The French went a dash foamy crazy during the 1700s when they discovered how to use whipped egg whites,although no one really knows who invented it. The New York Times published its first recipe for the dessert served in individual dishes in 1955, about the time Jackie Kennedy was bringing French chefs to cook in Washington DC, the foolproof finale to an elegant meal.  The first written record of chocolate mousse in the United States comes from a Food Exposition held at Madison Square Garden in New York City in 1892. A “Housekeeper’s Column” in the Boston Daily Globe of 1897 published one of the first recipes for chocolate mousse.

There are a number of different techniques for making chocolate mouse, which is different than a baked souffle or a stovetop pudding, and dictates the consistency (thick to fluffy) and texture.  But at the core, the chocolate needs to be melted and the eggs whipped. I learned how to make chocolate mouse at St. Michael’s Alley. Barbara Hiken brought in a recipe using semi sweet chocolate made in the blender, a recipe rarely seen. It was a snap. We ordered Guittard by the 50 pound box. We poured it into individual glass dessert dishes then refrigerated it overnight to firm up. The texture was like silk. Later I would make the mousse for catering sit down dinner parties.

With a few rare exceptions, all chocolate mousse recipes have two ingredients:
- Bitter Chocolate, which is of course the essential element of the dessert giving the flavor character, and
- Egg white, which is whipped into a foam and then added to the melted chocolate to provide the light and foamy texture, which is the essence of the recipe. Of these additional ingredients, sugar is present in every recipe I’ve ever seen and cream is present in most.

To this, depending on the recipe, additional ingredients can be added to change the taste and texture of the dessert. Such as:
Sugar – Mainly to make the dessert sweeter, as dark chocolate can otherwise be too bitter for most people.
Cream – This gives the dessert a softer and lighter texture. For recipes using dark chocolate (some use white chocolate), this ingredient makes the dessert taste more like milk chocolate than dark chocolate.
Egg yolks – Adds a rich taste to the dessert, plus uses the yolks left over after one has used the egg whites. The mixture needs to be warm to cook the eggs.
Flavorings – Many different flavorings can be added, the most popular including: vanilla, orange and coffee or a liquer like rum, Kahlua, Chambord, or brandy, even spices. One could argue that this is not “authentic” chocolate mousse, but if people enjoy it, why not introduce some variety?
Decoration – After the dessert is prepared, common decorations are cream or berries (raspberries and strawberries are often used). A less common but elegant edition is mint leaves. The type of serving dish contributes to the elegance.

Modern touches-soft tofu (vegan egg substitute), coconut milk, non dairy milk or creamer.

CHOCOLATE: Chocolate is an equatorial bean that is roasted and blended with sugar to form solid bars or powdered cocoa.  Unsweetened chocolate is known as chocolate liquor and contains about 50 percent cocoa butter. It is sold in 8-ounce boxes, with each 1-ounce square conveniently individually wrapped.  Bittersweet and semisweet dark chocolate contain 35 percent liquor and, depending on the manufacturer, a varying array of milk solids, butterfat, lecithin, and vanillin.  American semisweet chocolate is the equivalent of European bittersweet.  Couverture is a thin-coating chocolate used especially for candy making, dipping fruits, and glazing, but it can be substituted for bittersweet and semisweet chocolates.  It melts and spreads beautifully.  When using this chocolate in a recipe, use less fat per recipe than for regular dark chocolates, as it contains 39 percent cocoa butter.  It is usually available in 10-pound bars from wholesale bakery supply houses.  Sweet dark chocolate contains 15 percent liquor plus more sugar and other ingredients than bittersweet and semisweet chocolates.  Milk chocolate has 10 percent liquor and a high amount of butterfat and milk solids.  It is very sensitive to heat.  White chocolate is not a true chocolate, but a combination of sugar, cocoa butter, butterfat, milk solids, lecithin, and vanilla flavorings.  It is extremely sensitive to heat.  Good-quality brands of white, dark, and milk chocolate are Lindt, Ghirardelli, Maillard, Callebaut, Tobler, Valrhôna, and Nestlé.  Store your solid chocolates tightly wrapped in a cool, dry place up to 6 months.  If your solid chocolate develops a thin white surface, known as bloom, it has been stored at too warm a temperature.  Bloom is harmless and the chocolate may be used as needed.

Unsweetened cocoa is chocolate liquor that has had some of its cocoa butter pressed out and is then ground to a fine powder.  It is a good choice in baking for fat- and cholesterol-restricted diets.  Dutch-processed cocoa is alkaline-treated, therefore, darker in color, less bitter and richer in flavor than nonalkalized cocoa.  Quick bread recipes utilizing Dutch cocoa use slightly more baking powder to maintain the proper acid-alkaline balance.  When using nonalkalized natural cocoa, such as Hershey’s (in the brown can), baking soda is an important ingredient for balancing the natural acids.  They may be substituted for each other in recipes, but the flavor and color will be different.  Good brands of Dutch-processed cocoa are Dröste, Poulain, Baker’s, van Houten, Hershey’s European-style (in the silver can), and Ghirardelli.  Cocoa keeps indefinitely in an airtight container.  Do not substitute instant cocoa powder in recipes, as it is precooked and sweetened.

To substitute cocoa powder for baking chocolate: Substitute 3 tablespoons cocoa and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or butter for every one-ounce square of baking chocolate.

Melting Chocolate:

The trick to melting chocolate successfully is to melt it slowly over low heat stove top or quickly in the microwave.  Whatever method you use, first chop it coarsely for even melting.  It burns very easily, so keep the temperature below 125ºF.  If overheated, chocolate will become grainy and taste scorched.  The container in which it is melted must be dry.  All types and brands of chocolate melt at different rates and have different consistencies.  Semisweet and milk chocolates tend to hold their shape when melted and must be stirred with a whisk or rubber spatula to create a smooth consistency.

In a double boiler, place coarsely chopped chocolate over hot, just below simmering water.  Let stand until melted, stirring occasionally.  Because milk and white chocolates are so heat-sensitive, after the water is hot, remove the double boiler from the heat and let stand until the chocolate is melted.

In a conventional oven, place the chocolate in a Pyrex or other oven-proof baking dish in a preheated 300º to 350º oven.  Check every 5 minutes until melted.

In a microwave oven, place coarsely chopped chocolate in a microwave-proof container and partially cover with plastic wrap.  Microwave at 50 percent power for 2 to 4 minutes, depending on the volume, until shiny and slightly melted.  Stir at 1-minute intervals throughout the melting process until completely melted.  Milk and white chocolates take less time than dark or unsweetened.

Meanwhile, the number of children working in the cocoa industry has increased by 51 percent from 2009 to 2014. Here is a list of more socially conscious companies who have made a point to avoid profiting off the suffering of child labor:

Clif Bar
Green and Black’s
Koppers Chocolate
L.A. Burdick Chocolates
Denman Island Chocolate
Gardners Candie
Montezuma’s Chocolates
Newman’s Own Organics
Kailua Candy Company
Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company
Rapunzel Pure Organics
The Endangered Species Chocolate Company
Cloud Nine
ADM Cocoa
Fowler’s Chocolate

Recipes and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2017

Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.

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